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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-David Copperfield by Charles Dickens


prepared me for her going no farther.

The neighbourhood was a dreary one at that time; as oppressive,
sad, and solitary by night, as any about London. There were
neither wharves nor houses on the melancholy waste of road near the
great blank Prison. A sluggish ditch deposited its mud at the
prison walls. Coarse grass and rank weeds straggled over all the
marshy land in the vicinity. In one part, carcases of houses,
inauspiciously begun and never finished, rotted away. In another,
the ground was cumbered with rusty iron monsters of steam-boilers,
wheels, cranks, pipes, furnaces, paddles, anchors, diving-bells,
windmill-sails, and I know not what strange objects, accumulated by
some speculator, and grovelling in the dust, underneath which -
having sunk into the soil of their own weight in wet weather - they
had the appearance of vainly trying to hide themselves. The clash
and glare of sundry fiery Works upon the river-side, arose by night
to disturb everything except the heavy and unbroken smoke that
poured out of their chimneys. Slimy gaps and causeways, winding
among old wooden piles, with a sickly substance clinging to the
latter, like green hair, and the rags of last year's handbills
offering rewards for drowned men fluttering above high-water mark,
led down through the ooze and slush to the ebb-tide. There was a
story that one of the pits dug for the dead in the time of the
Great Plague was hereabout; and a blighting influence seemed to
have proceeded from it over the whole place. Or else it looked as
if it had gradually decomposed into that nightmare condition, out
of the overflowings of the polluted stream.

As if she were a part of the refuse it had cast out, and left to
corruption and decay, the girl we had followed strayed down to the
river's brink, and stood in the midst of this night-picture, lonely
and still, looking at the water.

There were some boats and barges astrand in the mud, and these
enabled us to come within a few yards of her without being seen.
I then signed to Mr. Peggotty to remain where he was, and emerged
from their shade to speak to her. I did not approach her solitary
figure without trembling; for this gloomy end to her determined
walk, and the way in which she stood, almost within the cavernous
shadow of the iron bridge, looking at the lights crookedly
reflected in the strong tide, inspired a dread within me.

I think she was talking to herself. I am sure, although absorbed
in gazing at the water, that her shawl was off her shoulders, and
that she was muffling her hands in it, in an unsettled and
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library - PinkMonkey.com-David Copperfield by Charles Dickens



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